Wednesday, 9 May 2012

God Of The Silver-Tongues

'The Invention of Love', by Tom Stoppard, received its premiere at the Cottesloe Theatre, Royal National Theatre, London, on 25 September 1997. The role of 'Charon' was played by Michael Bryant, then aged 69.

"And they stretched out their hands in desire of the further shore."

Not much to look at, maybe. Dog-ears,
Blotches, one of those satisfying
Spinal curvatures (the complexion
Of achieved purpose),
With metal prongs stabbed through
The coverlet of plain-sky-blue.
Plain, that is, but for the blinking glint
Of gold: the label alive (as an actor's eye)
When it catches the light.

Imagining some Grecian scholar
I delve into the ruffled leaves -
Survey the assemblance of wisdom:
'The Invention of Love'.
The first page hangs - an extended dove -
And falls with a snug-winged nestle.

Corrections, arrows, cuts, additions.
Lift, hiatus, drift and fall. Parched
Yellow highlightings (the ripeness garnered),
A tea-stain fleck, electric glow - and lift,
Hiatus, drift and fall. The kiss
Of each leaf on soft-lipped leaf, reciprocal.


An envelope.
Empty. Autumnal. Preserved
Like a petalled-butterfly, pressed -
Embalmed in its chrysalis.

Touch skin on flattened skin.

The air.
Shiver. Wing-ruffle. Escapage
Of dust, and a flutter of fragrance:
The scent of invention, reborn.

This was his 'line-learner' -
Companion in those days
Of gestation:
A drifting eclipse on the rounds
Of his fingers. Their together-scroll
From line to line like the moon
Back-peeling the folds of the sun,
Or the teasing reveal of the turning earth.
His brown-winged Skipper.

I conjure a flash of your eye in the dust,
In the caves of that Stygian gloom. Charon,
Ferryman: God of the silver-tongues, God
Of the Underworld.
You've got to admit it has gravitas.

On page eighty-five you have branded a note:
"Hold out hand"
 Hold out hand?
Soft in my palms is a tremble of wings:
Lift, hiatus, drift and fall.


Into the fog
I am reaching, reaching -
Reaching into the fog.

Distant and dim, but approaching,
Encroaching: a beacon
Beams back from the night.

A paddle of waves
And a rippling slosh.

Then a bow, and a belly of wood.
An oar balanced over his shoulder,
His face in a drizzle of light.

A standstill crunch of skiff on sand.
Hold out hand. Hold out hand.

The candle flame quivers.
There is crystal in his eyes.


May these lines be my passage,
My obolus into the mist -
And row me over to that bank
Of eglantine.

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